The stage is set. All the obstacles were built. Sponsors were everywhere. The DJ booth located right in the middle of the campground. It was a beautiful, muddy day with warm temperatures in the mid-60s. Mud! Mud! Everywhere! It rained the day before. The first test was getting into Porter Farm where the race was being held at. Cars were getting stuck. Some had to be towed later after the race. Cars were stuck in the mud! Clouds covering the glooming sky. No sunlight. That means we are able to go the distance without sweating up a tsunami all the way to the finish line. There were 29 obstacles in the 8.2 Mile stretch on Saturday. The anticipation was building. Athletes from all the country made their trips out to Charlotte, North Carolina. Some not that far. The Spartan Super glued into the minds of everyone. The glory of holding the shiny new 2019 blue silver medal hanged down the neck of champions. That’s the goal. Trifecta hunt in effect.
After this course, it would be 2 more races to go. Huge smiles everywhere. The scent of accomplishment. The energy of power & hope. The sound of medals clicking left and right all around the campground. Bragging rights. For some here in the south, this was the first race of the season for many. Other participants competed in Jacksonville Florida just weeks back.
Unfortunately, the race didn’t turn out how I hoped it would. Why is this you ask? This is the first race I did not finish, due to an unfortunate ankle injury. I ran down a rugged terrain hill with unbelievable speed. Boom! It got the best of me. After 30 plus races in my OCR career, I’ve finally done the unthinkable. Quit on a race I signed up for. Fortunately, the medical staff on duty were there to come to my rescue. Huge thank you to them. My experience was an unforgettable one.
The Terrain & Course
Squish squash. The sound of mud gushing while everyone marches towards the start line. There was no escaping the mud swallowing your shoe & perhaps your socks with every step. No sunlight yet. Not until 2 pm. Morning racers rejoiced. Easy work, less sweat for everyone. The terrain along the course had moderate shifts of incline & decline. Yes, there were hills. Grass fields, water creek crossings and forest sprints. Chants of “We are Spartan!” right off the gate as we started the race. Hay wall, over walls, rolling mud! There was no denying the cold shower of the mud down the dunk wall as you emerge back up.
Brown soil water streaming down your face, headband, ears, shirt, arms & shoulders. As you open your eyes realizing you just crossed the pond of mystery a professional photographer appears. Get your game face on! No need to be scared. Even if you look like the long lost cousin of the Loch Ness Monster here. Or Chewbacca waking up in the morning. Snap! Snap!
Off we go next are the inverted walls, bender, z walls, luminox, hercules hoist, barbed wire crawl, crawl tubes and slip wall. Now we are talking! Your strength, balance and determination are tested! The slip wall was not the easiest at all on Saturday. Many failed. Many bruised egos. With it being wet, it was not easy to run up an elevated wall up to grab a tight rope to powerup the adjacent wall. The rope would slip out many participants hands. Some powered their way through. Others used technique and teamwork. One would help push off the heel of the shoes on the ground while the racer would grab the rope. The person on the top end ready to lift you up. Could be a friend, a family member or a stranger.
You don’t have to finish this alone. You don’t have to fail on your own. People all around you will help. Spartan culture is all about lifting up those around you who are in need of help. Just don’t be afraid to ask. TEAM. Together everyone achieves more.
Atlas carry is next. Strongman challenge? First, you grab a weighted stone ball across the flag line 15 feet across, then do 5 burpees. After that, you bring the stone ball back to where you picked it up. Use your knees, straighten your back, grip your hands and lift!
Injury & Medical Staff
Unfortunately, this is where things went downhill for me– literally and figuratively. So what really happened? I was running down a rugged hill. Increased my speed. The momentum carried me swiftly. Uneven slopes in the meadow forest. Majestically breezing thru. Then a huge swerve. 3 cracks. My ankle got caught and turned inward. My body dipped to the left. I fell on my side. Fellow racers behind me stopped to ask if I was ok. With a delayed hesitation I replied, “I hope so, I don’t know if I can walk.” At this point, there was no telling how bad my injury is.
There are 3 levels of sprained ankles. Level one will take you out for 1 to 3 weeks. Level two will take you out a 1 month to 3 months. Level three will take you out 4 to 6 months. Depending on the extent & severity of the injury, you need surgery. My dreams were crushed. My pride was shaken. Doubt is now lingering in my mind. Those fellow races who stopped for me called for a medic. I got up. Tried walking it off after 5 minutes. No luck. My left ankle had stopped me in my tracks. I thanked those who stopped to help me get up.
As I sat waiting for the medical rover to pick me up and take me back to the campground to get evaluated and iced up, everyone who had passed me asked me if I was ok. With a weak response, I said, “Yes I’m ok”. I didn’t want everyone to stop along race, even though I was in pain. Volunteers weres on the radio making sure I got the attention and help I needed. I’ve never seen so much support from the community. Love the spirit of athletes in Spartan and OCR.
For the first time, I would not be completing a race I signed up. I was fuming with disappointment. Why me? Why now? With my pride intact, I hopped with my one good leg to the medical rover 20 feet away from me as they arrive. I’m still a badass. Nothing can take that away from me. Mentally I was shaken. Physically not good. Will this stop me? No. Thoughts of me never to do this again because of the trauma? No. Will I be back in the future to conquer this course in the future? Hell yes. I was halfway done. I live for the excitement, the adventure! I feel alive every time I compete in a fitness event.
The rover took me back to the campground tent. In the name of safety, they gave me a helmet and we did a little bit of off-roading. Remember it was muddy? We were swerving left and right. Mud splatting off from the back tires. We passed through the obstacles I had conquered. Watching fellow racers on later heat times working to conquer the obstacles I had recently finished.
Once in the tent, medical staff quickly had me sit on a chair and used another chair to elevate my bad left ankle. I filled out my paperwork. Everyone was so courteous, respectful & responsive. They offered me water, coffee, Advil, etc. They called my sister to inform her where I was. She arrived a bit later. Got to thank her for handling the news like a champ. The guy sitting just 10 feet away from me suffered the same fate: Twisted left ankle down an inverted wall. A girl next to me came in with a bad right ankle. We probably should have started the start bad ankle club.
I learned in our chats that no one accepted defeat. We talked out our next races in the future once we are done healing. Totally uplifting. Another guy came in after twisting his right arm on the 16th obstacle, twister. He was in worse shape than us. Injuries are unexpected, but they can happen at any time. But how you react afterward is what determines your reality. Stay positive. Keep going. The train doesn’t stop here.
In the festival area, there were great selections in the souvenir booth. I got the Charlotte Spartan t-shirt. Food trucks were in attendance. There were washing stations, a beer garden. and bag check. Spartan kids overcoming their own course. Photo spec opportunities everywhere. They even had fake Spartan helmets, swords, shields, and balloon drink blow ups.
Thanks to the medical staff, volunteers, sponsors, fire department, organizers & everyone involved to make this event happen. I am honored to have taken part. Every time I’m left impressed by Spartan. I will be back stronger than ever! No time table yet on when I will return. I have a grade two ankle sprain, so I'm in recovery mode for at least 2-3 weeks. Rest is what I need. Bags of Ice also!
Fortunately, there are many Spartan events in the future reclaim glory. What’s important is that I get my health back. See you next time Spartan. Aroo!
By the way, if you ever make a trip to Charlotte. North Carolina BBQ with their famous mustard sauce is out of this world! Just saying.
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This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.